Sri Lanka: Caritas provides artificial limbs for war disabled

Civilians sit in a line to receive food in the Menikfam Vanni refugee camp located near the town of Chettekulam in northern Sri Lanka April 29, 2009. Reuters/Stringer www.alertnet.org

Civilians sit in a line to receive food in the Menikfam Vanni refugee camp located near the town of Chettekulam in northern Sri Lanka April 29, 2009. Reuters/Stringer http://www.alertnet.org

Little Vathani celebrated her eighth birthday a few months ago in Visvamadhu, a village in war-torn northern Sri Lanka. The next morning, her village was attacked by aerial bombardment and artillery. The terrified girl was running through the paddy fields when she was hit by a shell, which blew her leg away.

Her mother, Arunthathi Selvathurai, 52, a Hindu farmer’s wife, recalled the horrifying sight of Vathani, crying in fear and pain, the remains of her leg lying beside her in the mud.

She and Vathani were later evacuated by the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) and ferried to a state hospital in the port city of Trincomalee. They were then transferred to the Chettikulam refugee camp.

With fighting in the region the heaviest it has ever been, a growing problem for Church relief agency Caritas is to provide as many prosthetic limbs and other aids as possible.

“So far there have been about 200 fittings for those maimed in the fighting,” said Manjulavathy Peter, data operator for the Valvuthayam program of Caritas-Mannar in Mannar diocese.

So far the organization has provided artificial limbs from the renowned prosthetic limb-maker Jaipur Foot, and other materials such as stretchers and wheelchairs.

Caritas representatives visit camps to collect details of the disabled in the refugee camps spread over thousands of hectares about 30 kilometers southwest of Vavuniya. These camps, ringed by barbed wire and guarded by soldiers, are now home to more than 200,000 refugees.

Caritas workers visit hospitals and charity centers to count the number of those disabled.

“There is great pressure on us as the disabled are in dire need of our help,” said Caritas–Mannar director Father Santhia Joyce Peppi Sosai. He added that he has ordered several hundreds of artificial limbs, calipers, crutches, neck braces and splints for both young and old.

Arunthathi is grateful for the sacrifice and care she has received from Caritas that has given her young daughter new hope.

“Now Vathani can walk as a normal girl without support,” Arunthathi said.

Courtesy of UCAN

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Filed under Asia, Conflicts and Disasters, Emergencies, Emergencies in Sri Lanka, Peacebuilding, Sri Lanka

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